Tag Archives: Ozark wildlife

Invading Chipmunks

Chipmunks are definitely cute unless you are a bird. Invading chipmunks are disappearing with all the sunflower seeds put out for the birds.

At first a single chipmunk kept scouring the ground under the feeder for fallen sunflower seeds. Birds are messy eaters so some land on the ground. And the empty shells along with a few others get dumped there at night.

Chipmunks rarely survive long in the backyard. They seem to defy the cats and end up dinner.

invading chipmunks must be acrobats to gain the metal ledge
Metal fence posts are easy for chipmunks to climb. It is a long stretch to reach the edge of the metal ledge. If it were an inch wider, the chipmunks would be unable to get up on it. Once a chipmunk is on the ledge, it becomes a great vantage point for spotting other chipmunks who might be going up on the feeder or cats looking for dinner.

This year brought a lot of chipmunks into the yard. A few have become cat and fox dinners. More move in.

The feeder also proved to be a challenge. The posts are easy to climb. I watched a chipmunk climb up and run into the rim of the feeder floor. It fell back defeated.

Sunflower seeds are a powerful motivator for a chipmunk. That chipmunk tried again and again until it could grab the edge and pull itself up onto the ledge.

invading chipmunks pause on the wood feeder rim to check out who is eating
Once the chipmunk has gained the ledge, getting onto the wood bird feeder rim is only a long stretch. The rough wood makes it easy for tiny claws to hold on as the chipmunk pulls itself up. Any bird in the feeder then either flies away or ignores the chipmunk. Most of the birds leave. The chipmunk moves into the tray to eat.

Word got around.

This morning I watched two chipmunks at work. One would race over to the clump of grass under the feeder. The cats were sleeping in the house and the foxes were snoozing up on the hill.

The chipmunk raced up the post, onto the ledge and into the feeder. A blue jay left in disgust. A titmouse swooped in to snatch a seed and depart. Invading chipmunks clear out the bully birds.

cheek pouches filled, invading chipmunks leave the bird feeder
Chipmunks don’t hibernate. They do tend to stay in their burrows when the weather is cold. Sunflower seeds make great snacks for those times. After eating a few seeds, the chipmunks stuff their cheek pouches full and prepare to leave the bird feeder. The ledge is over four feet off the ground, but they seem to barely use the fence post as they plummet to the ground.

A short time later the chipmunk reappeared with bulging cheek pouches. It got back on the ledge and slid down the post carrying its bounty away.

The second chipmunk arrived and invaded the feeder. It was sliding down as the first one came over. Both wanted to be sole feeder invader.

Sunflower seeds are a powerful motivator for a chipmunk. These invading chipmunks fell into an alternating rhythm until the feeder tray was empty.

Observing wildlife and Ozark hills has been a pastime for many years. Read more in “My Ozark Home“.

Woodchucks aka Groundhogs or Whistle Pigs

Woodchucks aka groundhogs or whistle pigs are big rodents. They are vegetarians spending their days devouring plants.

When these eating machines live out in the pastures, this is not a problem. They do dig extensive burrows, but usually up against a hill or big rock.

Woodchucks aka Groundhogs or Whistle Pigs are wary creatures
Why these creatures are called woodchucks, I don’t know. They earn the groundhog name as they root along and burrow their way under fences somewhat like hogs do. When alarmed woodchucks emit a piercing whistle that will stop you in your tracks giving them the name whistle pig.

Armadillos dig their burrows anywhere, even out in the middle of the pastures. That is dangerous for any animal or person walking along without looking at the ground.

Problems arise when woodchucks aka groundhogs or whistle pigs get into a garden. A family moved next to mine and started devouring the tomatoes and had to be eliminated. Their idea or sharing is: them all, you none.

I hate to shoot a so-called varmint animal as it doesn’t know it’s being a problem. It’s hungry and you are providing food, so it eats. It’s that dislike of sharing on their part.

Woodchucks aka Groundhogs or Whistle Pigs are vegetarians
Woodchucks are diurnal, coming out during the day, to eat plants. Grass, preferably clover which is common in our yard, is fine. The problems begin when a woodchuck starts eating fruit and other plants. They hibernate in their extensive burrows all winter so they are voracious eaters in late summer.

The populations of raccoons, opossums and woodchucks aka groundhogs or whistle pigs are going up in my area. Even in town these animals seem to occupy places near homes and businesses. Relocating these animals is not an option.

So I wasn’t particularly surprised to see a woodchuck out grazing in the back yard. It is a big woodchuck. It was mowing the grass.

The grass does need mowing. We do get the mower out when it gets about six inches long and a nuisance to walk through early in the morning when it’s wet with dew.

Sunny Cat notices groundhog
My Sunny cat spends much of the day sleeping outside. This day he sits up for petting then notices the woodchuck out on the grass. He checks this out as the woodchuck is bigger than he is.

As long as this woodchuck only mows the grass, we will live in peace. We are a bit uneasy about it though. Something has been sampling the figs on trees we grow in large tubs.

The woodchuck may be innocent. Raccoons, opossums and foxes like figs too. The culprit is an expert at getting marshmallows out of the livetrap, triggering it, but not getting trapped.

Woodchucks aka groundhogs or whistle pigs remain the main suspects.

Resident Northern Water Snake

The only constant in nature is change. Our resident northern water snake has seen there first hand.

At first the snake took up residence in chunks of broken concrete dumped along the creek near the bridge to stabilize the bank. There was a deep inlet of the creek there with lots of fish coming and going.

The two foot long snake would bask among the rocks. Then it would slide into the creek to catch a large minnow for its daily meal.

northern water snake on concrete piece
Years ago the resident northern water snake was small enough to coil on the top of a piece of concrete to enjoy the sun.

Clumps of grass edged into the creek closing the inlet off into a pond. A willow grew on the island. A bullfrog lived in the pond too.

The willow is dead and gone. The grass clumps are more numerous. The pond water level has dropped. And the northern water snake seemed to have moved elsewhere.

Each nice morning the goats tromp out past the pond on their way to the bridge. Lately I have gone out with them to enjoy the walk out to the south pasture and back. On the way along the bank a ripple of movement revealed the northern water snake disappearing down under the concrete chunks.

Several mornings since I’ve seen the snake lying in loose coils hidden in the grass, but enjoying the sunshine. It has grown to nearly four feet long and as thick as my wrist.

Some people confuse a water snake with a cottonmouth. They are not the same. A water snake is not poisonous, more brownish, but cranky and will bite if harassed. Even so, it prefers retreat.

northern water snake in grass
This year the northern water snake is a bit big to coil on one concrete piece. The weather has been hot so the grass spot over the pond bank is favored for snake relaxing.

Looking at the snake hidden in the grass I’m reminded of “The Carduan Chronicles” as my intrepid survivors encounter snakes. And they are dinner size.

That brings to mind an interesting science nature lesson called the hundred inch walk. You measure out 100 inches of cord. Lay it on the ground in a grassy or natural area.

Now you lie down and ‘walk’ along your cord exploring the distance from ground height. Who lives there? What can you see? Perhaps you will walk through a grass clump and meet a northern water snake.

Learn more about northern water snakes in “Exploring the Ozark Hills.”